The Bears Awake

Makings: Experiments in Gold

THURSDAY: MakingsAlexComment

I was pretty sure that nothing could beat some proper gold leaf, but I had to try out a few different methods just to be sure I was getting things right. I even tested out some different gold paints (Image 3), because paint would make things easier, but having seen the perfect shine of gold leaf, paint just would not do.

gold leaf tests

Then I had to figure out he right method to apply the gold leaf. Traditionally you just apply the size where you want the gold leaf to stick, and then apply it as normal (Image 1). This looked nice, but was so time consuming, and the masking required left room for too much error (Image 2). I decided that I would just apply gold leaf to a bigger area of spare card, and cut out my required shapes from there. This is still time consuming, but nowhere near as much as the previous method, and I like the added dimension it creates! (Image 4 shows the shiny gold leaf shapes, next to the gold paint which looks dull by comparison!)

Hopefully next week I'll be able to show how it all comes together.

Video: Watercolour Background Timelapse

WEDNESDAY: VideoAlexComment

A time-lapse showing how I've created two of my watercolour backgrounds previewed in my last post.

I started by laying down some water on the page, to give something for the paint to travel along, and ended by flicking some water on the paint to create a bit more texture. 

I love how the different textures appear in the green/blue background as it dries while I'm working on the pink/orange background! This is my favourite thing about watercolour - the unpredictable feathered edges where the faster and slower drying areas meet.

Markings: Watercolour Backgrounds

TUESDAY: MarkingsAlexComment

And there goes June. Somehow!

I have been making some headway though, which feels good. I needed to make some backgrounds for the papercuts that I am planning, and have been itching to make the colourful watercolour patterns in my head a reality. 

These are previews of the first two I've made. A couple of multicolour backgrounds. I need to make a few more that will be more focused on just one colour, which I'm really looking forward to as well. My artwork is usually so detailed that making backgrounds like this feels like pure play.

watercolour background preview

I filmed the process too to create a time-lapse for fun, which I'll post tomorrow!

Monday Goals, again

MONDAY: GoalsAlexComment

Last week:

Oh, last week was the week that was supposed to be better, but instead ended up worse. It's so very easy (for me, at least) to get a bit down about all the things I didn't accomplish, but I've just got to accept that last week, yes, my boys only napped one day out of seven, and yes, that to-do list was pretty much un-touched because of it. This is how it is sometimes, move along.

But, they napped today, so perhaps this will be a better week. I ended up being too tired to put my mind towards anything but laundry, but at least I am writing this post tonight, rather than falling asleep myself very soon after they have. (I am still crossing my fingers that all this intense unrest is due to round two of molars, and therefore this too shall pass, as they say.)

art studio

This week:

It would be nice to just get a little bit done. I've got a meeting about my freelance graphic work on Wednesday that involves being out of the house SANS-babies so I'm probably far too excited about it, considering it will only be the third such occurance in nearly two years. 

And, I'd love to make a dint I'm the masses of tidying and organising that needs to be done in my studio. I need to move a cabinet out of the room in the next few weeks, and I can't even do so because it's too full of STUFF. Let alone my messier-than-ever desk. The picture above doesn't even show my studio at its worst. It's just a mid-way example that I have from a few months ago, but it's motivation to first get back to this point, and then get it properly tidy. As ever: we shall see how the week goes! Wish me luck.

I hope your week goes very well!


TUESDAY: MarkingsAlexComment

I've been making some watercolour backgrounds to pair with my upcoming papercut designs. There's nothing more fun than watching the paint travel and mix with the water. I love the unexpected variations it makes, especially the almost fringe-like borders that outline where the water has pooled and taken longer to dry. I am still very new to watercolour, but I am already hooked and am excited to practise and learn a lot more.


I have also been experimenting with mark-making to add interest to a background I am creating for a piece that is due for a show in New York in August. These bottom two images are acrylic, metal leaf and coloured pencil on wood, soon to have a furry creature painted over the top. For once, not a bird!

It's interesting. For most of my art-making life, I've been rather anti-yellow, yet here it is creeping in twice in one week. In fact, there's been so much more colour (rather than neutrals) showing up in my work this year. It's funny how tastes can change so unexpectedly, but I like it.

Monday Goals: Round 2


I'm tempted to say that this week's goal is just for things to go better than last week. We're approaching molars teething territory again around here, so I think I'll just have to take it all as it comes, as today was another no-nap day.

I did tackle some of last week's list though: I sent my DSLR away to be repaired, so hopefully the news is good and it CAN be fixed, as I'm missing taking some proper photos around here. I didn't get to my logo but I did set up an Instagram account (@thebearsawake) - BUT, I'm yet to get it going, so that can go on this week's list. 

I shared a preview of the feather artwork I'm working on on Saturday, though I didn't get it finished. It might have to be put off until next week in favour of a couple of others I need to get started on, and I don't really know where I'm at for freelance work yet. 

Most importantly I'd like to get my first papercut design finished (it involves lots of triangles - my favourite shape of the moment!), and some watercolour backgrounds made. 

Above that, I'd be happy if we all get to do some more drawing this week!  I hope you have a good one! 



Sunday: Sky + new sounds

SUNDAY: SkyAlexComment

This was how the sun set on Saturday. It was oddly warm for a winter's day, even by Queensland's standards, and by the time it was dark, a huge storm hit, hail and all.

It was the first big storm the boys have been awake for, and they jumped out of their skins at the first loud crack of thunder. Just before their faces crumpled into to tears I happily said "BOOM!" and then they echoed the word, anticipating every crack of thunder after that with a big grin, so they could say "Boom!" again. We turned the outside lights on so we could see the rain pelting down, since they only learned to say the word "rain" a few weeks ago, and have loved pointing it out ever since.

And I got to work later that night to the sound of rain hitting our tin roof, one of my most favourite sounds to work to. 

This week:

SATURDAY: This weekAlexComment

- was a week of firsts here on my new blog. First little video, first ideas put out to the world, first week mildly getting along with my paper-cutter instead of wanting to stomp on it, and my first use of a fire blanket. Going by the goals I made for the week on Monday, I've still got a few things I'd like to try and tackle tomorrow, but at least I've almost made it through week one and I'm still here!

I'll leave you with a couple of images from what I was working on today. This is the feather artwork I mentioned at the start of the week. It's 50x50cm PanPastel on Pastelmat. Still quite a way to go, but progress is progress!

PanPastel feather progress

First Friday post

FRIDAY: Home/LifeAlexComment

(On a Saturday.)

Because Friday was not wonderful. And it's always those not-wonderful days where I have the most work planned, and I'm feeling productive, and then nap time doesn't happen, so work time doesn't happen either. Cue the grumps.

Our normal routine is to take a walk in the pram in the shady strip in the backyard at around 2pm. The boys usually nod off within five minutes, and I transfer them to their cots and they'll sleep for a couple of hours.

But, yesterday they'd fallen asleep in the car during an outing in the morning, and that can be enough to destroy nap time that afternoon, even if it's only been a ten minute snooze before they're out of the car and running about again. I dutifully walked back and forth for nearly two hours, totally in denial about the chances of getting them to sleep. Then gave up, as you just have to do some days, and we went to play in the dirt instead.

backyard pram

And, rather than finishing the day by catching up on work, I topped it off with a kitchen fire, thanks to our brand new hotplates being very, very faulty. Luckily there was no damage, just a scare, and I learned just how much of a mess smoke can make, and how to use a fire blanket. These things always happen when the mister is out of town. It's a rule. Meanwhile, the boys took the opportunity to steal some biscuits off the table while I was busy putting out the fire, little opportunists that they are.

I at least woke up this morning thinking Saturday would surely be a better day, and thankfully, it was!


The first test Makings

THURSDAY: MakingsAlexComment

I usually have a pretty clear picture in my head of how I want something I'm making to turn out. The exciting part of the process is figuring out how to make it actually happen.

To begin with, I couldn't even find the power cord to my cutting machine (despite having seen it in the linen closet multiple times and assuming it was for something else). So after wasting more time than I should have looking for this particular cord, I decided to cut my losses and just do some tests with what I had. This involved a piece of MDF for a cutting mat, since my actual cutting mat was so bumpy it just wasn't even worth using, and a huge stanley knife that really was too big to manoeuvre well, and was down to its last dull blade. BUT, I at least was able to make a mock-up of something tangible, however much of a hack job it was. It was a priceless experiment to be able to see what potential my designs might have once I had the right tools to create them. Sketches on paper and designs on screen are one thing, but holding something in your hands gives an entirely different sense of how things could be.


A few days later, after glancing at the offending power cord for what felt like the 97th time, my lagging brain finally clicked and considered that this may just be this mysterious cord I was looking for, even though it looked nothing like the one I was sure I was remembering correctly in my head.  Of course it was the cord, and of course I could have been working on things properly days prior if I'd just taken a few seconds to test it out. But, I can absolutely acknowledge that a level of brain fuzziness is part of life these days when there's a couple of toddlers in the house.

papercut gold leaf

I'm quite taken with triangles at the moment, so I'm getting my head around the workings of my cutting machine by starting with a geometric design. I have some more detailed designs planned  later down the track. I'm technically cutting a sheet of paper that is larger than the cutting machine is designed to handle, which is adding to some centring issues, but this is what the initial trial and error process is all about! At the moment I'm also getting a random cut line at the top and bottom of the page, even though I can see nothing on my screen that indicates I've set such a cut line to be there. The joys! I'm testing out some additions of a little gold here and there on my trial pieces too, so I can hopefully figure out all my issues/processing techniques in one go, so it can be full steam ahead on further designs from here on out. There's so much more to come!

First Video

WEDNESDAY: VideoAlexComment

I don't have any process videos quite ready to go yet, so here's one of my favourite videos of our boys from a few months ago. They tend to wake up from their afternoon nap not too long before the sun starts setting, so they grab their shoes straight away so they can rush outside and ride their trikes on the driveway. A lot of the time lately they don't make it as far as the driveway, and instead stop to collect more rocks than they can physically hold (and thus get cranky when they want to be able to hold 57 little rocks instead of just 8), but I at least got a cute video of the tradition on this day. They were just cruising rather than their usual crazy racing, but I thought that was kind of sweet too!

Next week I should have my first little watercolour timelapse ready to roll!

The first Markings : The first ideas

TUESDAY: MarkingsAlexComment

I have a little desktop paper cutting machine called a Silhouette SD. It's a superseded model, and of course the newer model costs a whole lot less than what I bought my old one for (and they are so much more readily available in Australia now), but recently I've been thinking more and more about how I could make some proper use of my machine, considering I've owned it for about 5 years now, and have really barely used it.

This is why I've decided The Bears Awake will initially be about a whole heap of papercut designs - all the ideas I've been considering for years but haven't quite pulled together until now. Previously I'd tried to push my little Silhouette machine too far I think - getting too detailed at too small a scale, which just resulted in munched designs, torn paper, and plenty (plenty, PLENTY) of frustration. I've been testing and brainstorming and I've come up with something I think will work really well, and it combines all of the things I'm crazy about right now: papercut silhouettes, cast shadows, watercolour and the odd hint of gold leaf. I'll share more about it all soon, but for now, here are my scratchings of initial ideas: the thumbnail designs I scribbled on paper whenever I had a few seconds to do so, usually in between lego-building and lunch-preparing or while dodging two racing trikes! 


I'm sure most of these marking only make sense to me, but soon enough you'll see them come to be final designs. I'm looking forward to making it all happen!

The plan around here.

MONDAY: GoalsAlexComment
2014 planner cover

This is the cover of my planner for the year. I'm a little addicted to planners and calendars, and it's not unusual for me to have at least a couple on the go at once. I prefer to actually write things down rather than plug things in to something like Google Calendars, even though I know things would probably be easier to keep organised if I just kept it all online. (I'm totally one of those people that gets a kick out of ticking things off a written list though. Can't help it.)

This 2014: My Best Year Yet Kikki-K planner was bought for the layout inside, rather than the sentiment on the cover, but I certainly don't mind the sentiment, and I think this might be where my new appreciation for deep blues may have started this year. It has good full month-at-a-view pages, and my favourite kind of week-on-the-left and notes-page-on-the-right layout for my list-writing tendencies. The plan is that it's going to get an even bigger workout in the second half of this year than it has in the first half. (Side note: Half the year is nearly GONE already?!)

As for the plan for this blog? I'm keeping categories sorted from the start. I feel like I wrote for years rather aimlessly on my old art blog (which I am still trying to resurrect here) so it feels good to have a set plan this time around. It's going to go a little something like this:

MONDAY: Goals - My goals for the week in all areas, however ambitious! I'll put them out there as a motivator.

TUESDAY: Markings - Sketches and artwork snapshots. Mark making in all forms. The first stage before Makings.

WEDNESDAY: Video - A bit of anything-goes, but mainly process videos and timelapses. It's highly likely the wrens on my studio windowsill will pop up every now and then too. You've gotta see them. They're pretty damn cute.

THURSDAY: Makings - Snapshots and work-in-progress images of what I am currently making, mostly in the form of papercuts (for now).

FRIDAY: Home/Life - This is where I will talk most about being a work-from-home mum. Are you doing the same? I'd love to hear from you! Maybe there will be some home projects. Things that are worth mentioning - just life!

SATURDAY: This week - A recap of the past week, told mostly through photos.

SUNDAY: Sky - As mentioned yesterday:  a photo of the sky from our backyard. Nice and simple.


So the goals for this week:

- Get this blog well and truly going! (Instead of just writing lists about it)

- Create a logo and an instragram account for The Bears Awake

Finish a feather artwork that I started last week - you'll find progress images here

- Tackle my first big round of freelance graphics work. The ideas are sorted, it's just time for colour!

- Finally, FINALLY send my DSLR away to be fixed, so I can start taking something other than iPhone photos around here! Funnily enough, cameras stupidly left in reach of then-18-month-olds tend to go BANG on the tiles and then no longer take photos.

I think I'll cap it there. Let's see how things go!


SUNDAY: SkyAlexComment

It is SO easy to put off writing your first blog post. 

I've told myself I'll start "next Monday" many a time, and at one point I'd decided "definitely May 1st" (which has obviously come and gone).

Then there are all the things that you "should" have 100% sorted before you even bother starting. Like a name for your blog. A logo. An About page. A big grand plan. Some of those things I've tried to get sorted. Some will stay the same, and I'm sure some will change, but you can at least read about some of it in my story.

But here's to just starting. And I'll start with a little Sunday tradition that I have decided to create, which simply involves sharing a photo of our backyard, mainly depicting a few silky oaks down the back, and my favourite big skies. This is one of my favourite early winter morning photos from when my boys were just babies. And there's no better way to make sure you don't miss a beautiful sunrise than to have a couple of little people waking you up for it.


I've taken so many such photos, and it will be great to have somewhere to collect them. And besides, Sundays are supposed to be simple, the days where maybe all you really want to see is a nice photo or two before you move on with your day.

I hope your Sunday has been a great one. I'll be back tomorrow, and the plan is, every day after that!

Welcome, and thanks for reading!